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In-Depth Player Study: David Crisp

An analysis of the new UW Point Guard’s Strengths and Weaknesses

NCAA Basketball: Washington at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

David Crisp

This article is part of a series which will provide an in-depth examination into each of the men’s basketball players returning in 2017-18. They will include a mixture of statistics, film study, and analysis. The statistics will come via a mix of Basketball Reference, Kenpom, and Synergy Sports. There are a lot of unknowns for next season given that the Huskies lost both their primary ball handler/star and their head coach. We may not know exactly how every player will be deployed but we can look at how they played last season and determine relevant trends to inform decisions moving forward. Check out the previous editions of Matisse Thybulle and Noah Dickerson.


David Crisp was a 3 to 4 star prospect depending upon the recruiting service who chose Washington over offers from Nebraska, Providence, and Texas A&M. He was viewed as a speedy 3-point specialist that would need to improve his decision making to become a true point guard. The scouts earned their pay on this one.

Crisp took almost two-thirds of his shot attempts from beyond the arc in his freshman season, hitting on 30.2% of them. That number was brought down when Crisp hit the freshman wall as he shot just 24.7% from deep in conference play. David largely served the role of the spark plug scoring guard off the bench playing behind Andrew Andrews and Dejounte Murray. His low field goal percentage combined with a low assist rate led to an offensive rating of just 94.5 where 100 is average. He finished with per 40 minutes numbers of 13.5 points and 3.1 assists.

In his sophomore season, Crisp started at shooting guard alongside Markelle Fultz but was also expected to be the backup point guard whenever Fultz took a rest. Once again, Crisp struggled with shooting during conference play (30.5%) but did well enough in the non-conference to end up at 36.7% on the year from deep. His per 40 minutes averages bumped up to 16.7 points and 3.8 assists. Crisp also became more willing to drive to the basket as the percentage of shots he took from 3-point range dropped from 67% to 58%. However, his turnover percentage increased at the same rate as his assist percentage so the minutes at point guard didn’t improve his decision making.

Offensive Strengths

Spot Up Shooting

Given everything said above, it’s no surprise that Crisp’s biggest strength is his shooting. Crisp ranked in the 66th percentile nationally in catch and shoot situations by shooting 37.9% for 1.16 points per possession. That number is still below what you would ideally like to have out of a three-point specialist but it’s certainly acceptable.

Crisp has somewhat of an unorthodox shot which can lead to inconsistencies. He kicks out his legs and fades away from the basket as he shoots. This both helps and hurts Crisp’s success. Fading away on the shot creates more space between Crisp and his defender. For a smaller guy that is important to keep his shot from getting blocked.

There are definitely drawbacks however. The best shooters in the world jump straight up, launch the ball at the apex of their jump, and release the ball at a 45 degree angle. This makes the motion repeatable and gives it the best chance of not being blocked. Crisp’s delivery in particular results in inconsistency. He has moments during games when he seemingly can’t miss. He also goes through stretches where he’ll miss 6 or 7 in a row. Unless he changes up his shooting stroke that’s likely to continue but if he can make close to 40% of his 3-point attempts despite the inconsistency then it’s a clear net benefit for UW.

Against Nevada, Crisp got into one of his grooves where he seemingly couldn’t miss. The Huskies were down 10 when Crisp caught fire and cut the lead down to 2 over the course of a few minutes. On the 1st shot Crisp has the ability to set his feet. Dickerson starts backing down his man in the post but realizes Crisp’s defender has abandoned him to help and gets the ball out to Crisp. David is a few feet behind the line but he is ready and loaded to shoot as soon as it gets to him and he nails it.

A few possessions later, Crisp does a good job of getting Markelle’s attention in transition. Fultz delivers a pass that allows Crisp to get the ball with his momentum going towards the hoop and he drains it before Nevada realizes he’s there and open.

After 2 makes like that, Crisp inevitably goes into heat check mode. The problem with heat check mode is that your first couple attempts that went in were probably good shots. Forcing it in heat check mode means it’s probably a bad shot. This one was a little in between. Crisp definitely had room between himself and the defender but his momentum is carrying him away from the basket. He is mostly able to stop and square up but you can tell by the way that he lands that his feet weren’t completely set. He lands with one foot and the other one still kicked up in the air. But it worked. Crisp just needs to realize that his percentage is going to be lower shooting like this than in the examples above.

Offensive Weaknesses

Decision Making

Crisp has never been a “true” point guard and so to some degree it may be unfair to harp on this issue. But he’s going to be asked to play point guard full time this season and it’s unclear whether he is up to the challenge. When Crisp became the starting point guard with Markelle Fultz out of the lineup at the end of the year he averaged 4.1 assists and 3.9 turnovers. Granted, 4 of those games were against NCAA tournament teams but UW won’t win many games unless they get fewer turnovers from the point guard position.

As mentioned in the intro, both his assist rate and turnover rate rose between his freshman and sophomore campaigns so he passed the ball more often but the ratio of ones that resulted in a bucket versus a turnover stayed about the same.

Crisp is a boom or bust player at heart. When it works out it looks amazing. When it doesn’t it looks terrible. Here’s a freeze frame of Crisp’s drive to the basket against UCLA. It can be slightly hard to tell but Crisp is the player directly behind Markelle Fultz surrounded by the 4 Bruins.

Crisp could’ve thought this one out better.

What do you think the end result of this drive was? The answer is that Lonzo Ball rips the ball away from his hands, gets a 1 man fast break, and Matisse Thybulle has to foul Ball to prevent a layup. Crisp can’t blindly drive into 4 players and expect to get away with it.

Here’s another example of Crisp getting caught driving without a plan although this time the problem was also with his passing. Crisp drives the baseline and quickly runs in to a double team. He has a moment where it’s still possible to back out and reset the offense with 15 on the shot clock. Instead he keeps driving and is left with 2 options. Either try to get around the defender on the baseline or attempt a bounce pass between 2 defenders to Matthew Atewe. He goes for option #2 and it works out about as well as you’d expect and results in a Wazzu layup going the other way. Part of the blame has to go to Atewe who should’ve cut to the basket rather than back away once his man left him but Crisp has to know the personnel. You can expect Dickerson to do the right thing in that situation. Atewe is not that guy.

Defensive Strengths

Isolation Defense

This one may come as a surprise to folks. But Crisp has the basic instincts and the agility necessary to be a pesky defender in one-on-one situations. When he gets completely locked in on that end of the court in a close game there are brief flashes of Venoy Overton swarming an exasperated point guard. In 26 possessions where Crisp was in single coverage in an isolation situation the opponent scored just 0.615 points per possession which puts Crisp in the 85th percentile among players with at least as many possessions.

On this play, Crisp stays on his man’s hip the entirety of the drive to the basket and is able to force an off balance floater. UW is unable to secure the rebound and it goes out of bounds but this is a clear defensive win for Crisp.

Defensive Weaknesses

Closing Out on Shooters

This one is explained by a couple of different behaviors. The first is that Crisp isn’t very tall and doesn’t have very long arms. He’s going to struggle guarding against players rising over him on a jumper. That’s a fact of life. But that means Crisp has to work extra hard before the close out to stay tight enough to his guy for the close out to matter and that is Crisp’s big problem.

First, let’s look at the numbers. Opponents scored 1.182 points per possession against Crisp when he was defending them in spot up situations. That basically means that whoever Crisp was guarding turned into as good of a shooter as Crisp on a points per possession basis. That number is also poor enough to place him in just the 5th percentile of players who defended at least as many spot up attempts. It gets even worse though. In catch and shoot situations, opponents that Crisp guarded shot a ridiculous 61.5% from the field. Having Crisp guard them was basically like shooting in an open gym.

Crisp needs to be closer to his man so that by the time they receive the ball Crisp is in a position to actually contest a shot. Speed isn’t the problem. Crisp has the athleticism and agility necessary to stay with all but the most elite point guards in the conference. He needs to improve his awareness of his surroundings on the court and not get caught ball watching. Whether it’s because he wants to gamble for a steal or just legitimately loses track of where his guy is, Crisp has to improve his basic fundamentals. Team defense wasn’t a strong suit (to put it mildly) for the Huskies last year and Crisp was as big a culprit as anyone as to why.

Next Steps

David Crisp’s play will be the single largest determinant in the success of the UW basketball team this season. It’s a completely reasonable reaction if you just gasped or groaned or shook your head. But there are reasons for optimism. David Crisp can be a frustrating player to watch. He’s inconsistent and can follow up an impossible shot or dazzling drive to the hoop with a needless turnover or matador defense. That points to effort and mindset being a larger problem than any of his physical tools. If he could just harness his ability and focus on his fundamentals then he can be a tremendous shooter/scorer and an adequate defender.

But that tremendous player plays shooting guard not point guard. Instead, Crisp is essentially the only point guard on the roster and he will have to develop a number of skills he doesn’t currently possess in order to fill that role adequately. It’s certainly not impossible for him to do so but it has to be considered unlikely. Andrew Andrews had a higher turnover percentage than assist percentage in his junior year. When asked to be the full time point guard his senior year he kept the turnover percentage steady and doubled his assist percentage. It can happen.

But it can’t be considered the most likely scenario. Until he proves otherwise, I assume that Crisp will have an offense first and a score first mentality. That is perfectly fine for your 6th man but more problematic for your point guard. The Huskies have been spoiled at point guard recently. The last decade of point guards have been Justin Dentmon, Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton, Tony Wroten, Abdul Gaddy, Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, Dejounte Murray, and Markelle Fultz. That’s a pretty great group.

To expect Crisp to ascend to the level of most of those players is unrealistic in the course of a single off-season. What this season will be about is progress. Can Crisp improve his effort on the defensive end? Will he be more willing to sacrifice his own shot to set up his teammates? Can he improve in his decision making? The Huskies are built towards 2018/19 when Crisp, Dickerson, and Thybulle are all seniors. Getting Crisp halfway towards becoming a well above average Pac-12 point guard for that year is the goal this season and Coach Hop will have his work cut out for him to achieve it.

2017/18 Predictions:

33 minutes per game, 15.8 points per game, 4.1 assists per game, 3.5 turnovers per game, 40.2%/37.8%/70.1% FG%/3pt%/FT%


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